A vendor renting beach chairs at Bathsheba, St Joseph, who has been threatened with closure by the National Conservation Commission, is to be relocated to “more suitable surroundings”, as the minister responsible for the NCC intervenes.
Minister of the Environment and National Beautification Trevor Prescod revealed that vendor Chawn Morris will have the opportunity to ply his trade in a more “lucrative’ spot, a solution he said would be to the mutual benefit of all involved.
In an Barbados TODAY interview, Prescod said: “I can give the assurance that this thing will be settled to the satisfaction of all parties, including the young man. I will also say that the transition will take place without any additional expense to him [Morris].
“I can also give the assurance that the alternative location will be of greater financial benefit to him because after all the major objective for Mr Morris is to make some money so that he can survive in this environment. It is best to pull himself out of any major controversy and criticisms from within the area.”
But Prescod would not reveal Morris’s new location.
Morris told Barbados TODAY last week that despite granting him a licence to operate in the first place, the NCC had given him until last Saturday to remove several integral structures of his business.
He said: “There is a little PVC booth there that I didn’t dig any foundation for. I just put some soft stones on the ground and levelled the ground with some mortar.
“The booth is made light enough to be moved if the waves come in. Also, when you are coming onto the beach there is a steep hill, so I built steps using sea rocks and wood.
“The NCC called me and told me that I have to move by Saturday, or they will come and remove the things themselves.”
Declaring that he has sunk close to $15,000 into the business, Morris explained that the six-feet-by-six-feet hut was vital for storage and shelter while the steps provided access, noting that without them it was pointless being open for business.
But Prescod said that while Morris was given permission to operate the chair rental business, he was not allowed to put up any structures on the beach. The minister said only the Town and Country Planning office can give permission to build such structures.
He argued that if a beach user was injured while using Morris’s steps, it would be the NCC that would face liability.
Prescod told Barbados TODAY: “I recently visited his establishment at the beach in Bathsheba because I wanted to see the location. I indicated to him that he was first to set up something like this on that particular beach.
“So, the discussions were cordial, but I did not know at the time he was going to go beyond building steps. I was concerned because of the angle and I did not know at the time that he was going to use pieces of electric polls to form the steps. As you could imagine if anybody steps down there and falls, the liability falls on the NCC.”
The minister further pointed out that in addition to the steps and the hut, the NCC was concerned about lounge beds built on the beach. He further revealed that the issue was compounded by opposition to the establishment from some groups within the surrounding communities.
When the story broke last week, critics of the NCC’s action declared the issue as an example of yet another proverbial poor black man being oppressed.
The minister, an avowed Pan-Africanist said: “I understand the sensitivity of the issue. I cannot tell you what motivates some people. Any opinion on the reasons why persons opposed the business will be speculating.”
When contacted, Morris said he had no problem moving but stressed that the decision on suitable relocation could not be unilateral.